Carambola (Star Fruit) Tree

Growing Zones in Ground: 10 - 11 / in Pots: 4 - 11

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Description

The carambola tree is a beautiful, subtropical plant with bushy foliage and lilac flowers. This tree produces an extended, star-shaped fruit.

Known as the star fruit tree, the finger tree, and the five-corner tree, it’s no wonder where the carambola gets its different names. This tree bears a long, light to dark yellow fruit with waxy skin.

Each fruit is oval-shaped and can be 2-6 inches in length. When cut crosswise into slices, each piece resembles a five-pointed star. The skin is thin and smooth. The inside flesh is yellow, crisp, translucent, and juicy. 10-12 light brown seeds are commonly located in the center of the fruit.

The carambola tree is indigenous to Southeast Asia. They grow best in subtropical or tropical climates, ideally in USDA zones 10 and 11. They can survive outdoors in zone 9, but only with proper protection from frost.

The carambola tree will grow best at temperatures of 68-95 degrees Fahrenheit. They can be planted indoors year-round and outdoors in the summer. They are small to medium height trees and can reach heights of up to 30+ feet with a diameter of 20+ feet. After they’ve matured, one tree can produce up to 200 pounds of fruit each year.

Carambola Tree Care

Carambola trees prefer hot temperatures and need full sunlight for growth. Therefore, they need to be placed somewhere away from taller plants and structures. Additionally, they should be watered regularly—about 2-3 times per week.

Be careful, as they are sensitive to overwatering. You should plant them in well-draining soil to avoid excessive irrigation.

Be mindful of their low tolerance to salt and high pH soils. Organic matter can be added to the soil to ensure sustainable growth and manage moisture levels. You should carefully prune these trees during the first few years of growth. Pruning will allow you to shape the tree and encourage its growth. Tipping off the shoots will put the branches in a position to bear fruit.

The carambola tree can be grown from seed, cuttings, or by grafting. If you’re looking to grow one from a seed, procure a star fruit and carefully extract the seeds. The seeds are only usable for a short period, so make sure to plant them quickly. This will improve the chances of germination. The seedlings grow quickly and should be transplanted into a medium-sized pot or planted outdoors.

Carambola Tree Harvesting

The carambola tree can be grown successfully indoors and may even produce fruit. They can start to produce fruit three years after planting. Then, after the fruit has ripened from green to yellow (with the tips remaining green), they are ready to be harvested.

Make sure to pick the star fruit only when they are ripe, as these fruits do not ripen off the tree. Fully ripe fruit may fall naturally from the tree.

Carambola can range from sweet to sour in taste. The taste is referred to as a combination of apples, grapes, and pears. The texture is crunchy, crisp, and juicy. Star fruit can vary in flavor. The smaller varieties have a sour taste, while the larger varieties tend to be sweet. Star fruits are also low-calorie and contain high fiber & vitamin C.

To eat star fruit, rinse it off and cut off the ends. They can be easily sliced or diced after the removal of the seeds. They can be eaten raw, juiced, or added on top of a salad as a garnish. The fruit can also be made into jams or added to smoothies.

Carambola Tree Advice

While the carambola tree is nearly pest-free, it can be a victim of fruit flies, fruit moths, and other insects. Thankfully, you can take care of these pests with insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils.

Carambolas are also prone to diseases like chlorosis, which can result from a lack of iron, manganese, or other nutrient deficiencies. This can cause the evergreen tissue to become pale or yellow. However, you can treat chlorosis by using a high-yield iron plus soil acidifier.

A balanced fertilizer should be applied to the soil every 1-2 months to assist in the production of fruit. Use a fertilizer that includes iron, zinc, manganese, and magnesium.

Star fruits may not be safe for everyone. For example, eating star fruit could be risky for those diagnosed with kidney problems because the fruit contains a neurotoxin that normally-functioning kidneys would filter out. Consuming a star fruit with these health conditions may cause the neurotoxin to remain in the body, causing symptoms of mental confusion, seizures, and in serious cases, death. Therefore, it’s advised to talk to your doctor before consumption of the fruit or its juice.

FAQs

Do you need to peel off the skin?

You can eat carambola with the skin. However, some say it tastes better when removed.

Is it okay to eat the seeds?

The seeds are edible but aren’t usually desirable because of their bitter taste.

What is the season for carambola?

The trees will fruit twice a year, generally in the mid-Summer to late Winter.

Can carambola be stored?

The fruit can be preserved for up to a week when placed in a plastic bag and kept in the fridge.